One of my most recent interests has been hiking and I've been very regular this year and try to hike every other week.
I like to be the chieftain when it comes to finding a decent hiking trail, following the map, packing a hearty meal. I also like to join different hiking groups and hike with new people. I've learned a lot from "veteran hikers", stuff I wouldn't have known by myself; how to identify a poison ivy, hiking essentials (more than just water), how to purify water from the streams, etc.
I went on a fun-filled hike with a friend. If we knew how this hike would be, we would have called it plain daft. I guess it's fun when u're taken by surprise. So we started hiking pretty late, around noon. Now this was in June, when the sun sets around 8:15 PM. We hiked along more than one trail in Catoctin/Cunnigham State Park near Thurmont, MD. We lost track of time and just wanted to finish the entire loop. It ended up being a 13 mile hike. It poured towards the end. Luckily I carried a poncho for the both of us. We saw some frogs along the way. The rain and overcast made it darker and I was a little freaked out and just wanted to find the way to the car. We finished the hike, and felt like we completed a fete at the end of it!
I trained the summer with some local hikes around VA, WV, and MD. I finished off the season with a hike in Washington to the summit of St. Helens. St. Helens is an active volcanic mountain, which has been dormant after a catastrophic eruption around the 1980s. St. Helens sells hiking passes every summer when the mountain is open to hikers. A good friend who had moved to Washington, mentioned about the hike and I signed up with him and a couple other friends. The hike itself is 9 miles round trip. On the way up there is an elevation gain of 4500 ft in 4.5 mile. This itself makes the hike quite strenuous. There are large boulders, ash and snow patches along the way. The east coast didn't have a lot of hikes with a lot of elevation gain. So I trained in the gym, spent more time on the stair master and upper body workouts. I must say, I was in my best shape and felt stronger. I didn't rest the day before the hike. I camped with some friends at a campground near the trail head and slept only for a couple hours. We started hiking early around 5 AM. It took me about 4 hours to get to the summit. I was the first among all my friends to get there. The view of the crater dome was unreal, and I spent a few minutes immersed in the moment, enjoying the view of the Spirit Lake and the crater dome. On the way down, I returned back with my friend. She was scared of heights and this is not a hike for those who fear altitudes as you are above cloud cover after the first mile. We got lost and didn't see anyone for hours. We finally got back on the trail and glissaded down the snow. As the mountain is covered with snow, it's hard to know which way the trail goes. There are wooden poles along the trail, but we were on the other side of the poles and didn't see anyone, as there were huge boulders. We finished the hike in 10 hours. We were all famished but we really enjoyed the hike. This has been my most memorable hike. We enjoyed good Thai food after the hike.
I'm looking forward to more of these hikes. I would love to hike in a different country outside the US and post my experience.